Lessons learnt from a beginner gardener – 18 months on

In December 2012 I wrote my first blog for Thompson & Morgan, all about my first year as a grower of vegetables. Time has passed by rapidly and I have learnt so much in the past 18 months as a beginner gardener. I thought it was time to tell you more about what I have been up too.

Season two began slowly, the spring of 2013 was really cold and stuff just wouldn’t grow. After learning a few things the previous season, I didn’t plant carrots or parsnips. I just couldn’t handle the worry of carrot fly and forking. I wanted to enjoy the garden as well as eat my produce.

Another change in 2013, I gave up one of my beds for flowers. I love flowers and for many years bought huge numbers from supermarkets or anywhere else I saw them. They were always lovely, but I was aware that they were not “just cut”, they had probably been heavily treated with chemicals. I wanted fresh, scented, cut that morning flowers, so I decided to try and grow some for myself.

Garden

Season two progressed nicely but it was not without its problems. One glaring mistake caused much merriment for lots of people all over the summer. Early in the year I sat with my T&M catalogue and picked the things I wanted to grow. I love courgettes, but they tend to take over, wherever you planted them. I spotted some that you could train and decided they were the perfect variety for me “Black Forest”. I built, what later became dubbed “The Leaning Tower of Barton” out of bamboo canes and collected my plants from the greenhouse.

Now in my defence I will say that most squash plants look the same until they produce something.  I happily planted my three courgette plants around the tower and began to train them upwards. They grew rapidly and soon flowers were appearing and then I could see the courgettes themselves beginning to grow. One of the plants though, seemed to be producing supersize veg.

It took me a few weeks but suddenly I realised that I had mixed up my plants. The super size veg were not courgettes. I had somehow managed to train a pumpkin up a trellis. Now the pumpkins were getting large, action was required to prevent them dropping off. So I made pumpkin slings out of net.

pumpkin

Those pumpkins were probably the best I have ever grown. As they were suspended 4 feet off the ground, they ripened beautifully in the sunshine and were not attacked by anything. When the pumpkins begin to appear this year, I will suspend them above the soil in slings.

pumpkin

This year the “Leaning Tower” definitely has only Courgettes growing up it!

Most of the other veg I grew was very successful, one minor error, I made an amazing bamboo frame for my peas and was very disappointed when they didn’t grow very high.  Subsequent examination of the packet revealed I had bought Dwarf Peas. This year, I was very careful selecting the correct variety, they are currently about 7 feet high and still growing.

dwarf peas

I became aware through social media, that there were a growing number of people, who were planting their own flowers and cutting them for sale or just for personal pleasure. So last summer with no experience of large scale flower growing, or in fact no idea of what I was going to end up with, I planted a whole bed with flower seeds. The result was a summer of flowers in my house, nothing purchased at a supermarket or florists.

cut flowers

But I knew I could do better, so I spent the winter, researching plants, going on courses and generally planning my flower year. I found resources which showed you could pretty much grow flowers all year round here in the UK and never have to buy them again. So this is now my mission. The one bed from last year has become two this year, and numerous pots as well. I have also used the borders and fences in the other part of the garden for sweet peas and anything else I can squeeze in.

I was also able to help out someone else on a special day. A few weeks ago I took a few jam jar posies into the charity shop I volunteer at. A customer saw them and asked where they came from. She was put in touch with me by the manager and she told me her story. Her sister was getting married the following Saturday and she wanted home grown flowers. Her dad had planted a load in the Spring, but for various reasons, not enough had grown. She asked if I could help out.

So it was, that last week, in the late evening when it was safe to cut, lots and lots of my flowers went on their way to be used at the wedding. The very happy bride, made a lovely donation to the Hospice I volunteer for. I cant describe the pleasure it gave me to be able to help.

In 2012 I was a novice, now in 2014, I could almost say I am a proper gardener. I love my plot and really enjoy sharing  all my stories from it. If you want to know more about my garden, and especially more about growing your own flower and food, come on over to my blog for a read.

Tree lily – the perfect performers for time-strapped gardeners

What a difference two years can make! Back in spring 2012, I planted five Tree Lily ‘Pink Explosion’ bulbs deep into a large, glazed patio pot filled with a 50/50 mix of multi-purpose and loam-based compost. I then stood back expecting big things.

Tree lily

Big things I got! Come mid-summer, thick 4ft stems were graced with lush foliage (free from lily beetle), each holding at least 6 flower buds. They soon burst open to offer huge vibrant flowers that filled the garden with that unmistakable heady scent that lilies are renowned for. A gorgeous display that only needed regular watering, and a high potash liquid feed as the buds developed. As you can see from the picture below, my daughter – two years old at the time, was the perfect height for a gorgeous photo opportunity.

Tree lily

After removing dead flowers, I left the stems to die back naturally, drawing energy back into the bulbs. Late autumn these were cut right down and the pot was left to face winter outdoors.

Late spring 2013 – I top-dressed the pot with manure pellets and started watering in dry spells. That summer the flowers were on 6-7ft stems. The only other upkeep was a liquid feed as buds showed (up to 10 per stem). Again, no sign of lily beetle.

Tree lily

The  following picture shows the amazing display this year. They have certainly outgrown my daughter! Nearly 8ft tall with 13 to 16 flowers on each stem. Look how they have multiplied in the pot, with young stems joining in too. I did notice beetle damage on a few leaves this season, but in three years I’ve spotted just one beetle on these plants.

Tree lily

With two young children to keep occupied, time working in my garden is precious, and I need plants that will perform with minimum input. Tree Lily ‘Pink Explosion’ fits the bill perfectly. Three years of strong garden performance all for the effort of a spring top dressing, a liquid summer feed, 15 minutes removing dead flowers and 10 minutes of cutting back. They even support themselves, so no staking needed! What more could you ask for?

National Garden Scheme – It started as a hobby

It all started as a hobby 30 years ago and now we’re opening our garden for the National Garden Scheme for the 5th year running! The garden behind the house was once a scrap yard, so we started by clearing it to make a garden for our young family.

It all started as a hobby

 

It all started as a hobby

Next door were once allotments, we watched them for 20 years slowly being reclaimed by nature, bindweed, nettles and brambles. In 2006 we acquired over half an acre of land in the centre of town and so began our huge project. We knew the bricks to rebuild the walls were in the undergrowth somewhere. My husband said you clean the bricks and I’ll build the walls, I thought he was joking, how wrong was I.

It all started as a hobby

So, after 140 tons of rubbish was taken away, all that was left was one apple tree and a handful of snowdrops.

It all started as a hobby

We had a huge new garden to fill, so I started taking cuttings from the original garden and sowing seeds, to keep the cost down.

It all started as a hobby

Now the garden is filled with trees, shrubs and flowers for all year round interest!

By Joy Gough

Moving house in the middle of the growing season

Moving house in the middle of the growing season isn’t ideal timing for a keen gardener! Knowing back in March that I’d be relocating in June, I reluctantly held back on my usual flurry of spring seed sowing, concentrating only on small batches of those plants that I just couldn’t be without in the garden.

So, travelling with the household furniture were sweet peas for daytime scent and colour (‘Sugar and Spice’ for ease of transport), Stock ‘Night Scented‘ for evening fragrance, and favourite of all; chillies – I’m a bit of an addict!

Sweet Pea 'Sugar & Spice'

Sweet Pea ‘Sugar & Spice’

 

night scented stock

night scented stock

Chilli 'Loco'. A T&M introduction for 2015

Chilli ‘Loco’. A T&M introduction for 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve also brought a wide range of potted trees and shrubs with me (the less said about the way the removal men treated them the better!).  Most arrived with a snapped branch or two, but better that than leaving them all behind, I suppose. With a bit of TLC and pruning they’ll pick up next season for sure.

I’m slowly developing plans for the new garden (a lovely south facing plot, backing on to open fields) aiming to make a big start in autumn. For now I’ll concentrate on container gardening.

My new south-facing garden

My new south-facing garden

For quick-fix colour that will last until the autumn frosts, my first planting has been several pots of Garden Ready Geranium ‘T&M’s Choice Mixed’ F1 Hybrid.  With the early growth stages out of the way all I’ve had to do is plant up, water in, set the pots on the patio and wait for them to grow and flower.

Kris-Collins

 

Watering in to settle my new additions into the garden

Watering in to settle my new additions into the garden

Adding these alongside the pots I moved with me, the new neighbours are already impressed with the garden. Just wait until this time next year! As and when I get to work on the garden I’ll keep you updated with developments, and share some of my timely tips and advice with you.

 

TomTato®

We were extremely happy to be selected as a TomTato® trialler for Thompson & Morgan. To grow an innovative and inspiring plant is such a great opportunity and I am here to share the journey with you. When our TomTato® arrived safe and sound I was incredibly excited to begin the growing process. The plant was packaged extremely well for transit and did not suffer from the journey at all. By the following morning he had straightened up and was reaching out for the sunshine.

TomTato

There was a squash in the cardboard outer at the top from rough handling in transit, but this had no ill effect at all and the container inside was fine. We were quite surprised to see how big the plant was, we were expecting something tiny! A good drink and he immediately flourished, bright green and desperate to grow!

TomTato

We have planted him in a large tub in an outdoor plastic tent style greenhouse. He looks really healthy and has shot up, and about a week ago we were rewarded with the first flower sprigs appearing. They are now revealing yellow and will be fully fledged flowers very soon. The whole family are following his progress very closely, particularly as my daughter is now starting a growing project at school and having to keep a diary for a sunflower – well homework has got a lot more exciting lately! We will be introducing the class to TomTato® in the coming week or so.
The plant has a great following, particularly at work where I am asked several times a day for progress reports. I have also spoken about him on our international company staff website, where we are holding a gardening forum as part of stress management and relaxing with nature project. Everyone is enthusiastic and amazed, and there is a great interest to see the end results as well as the growing process.

TomTato

I am keeping a detailed record of everything as we go along, and we are truly thrilled with this amazing plant and thank you for this opportunity to grow with you. No problems at all so far, he is a fantastic high quality plant, really healthy and eager to grow and we are very excited to see his progress!

TomTato

 

Wendy Morley

Our Summer Display – by Pam Gray

I am really looking forward to writing some blogs for Thompson & Morgan and as this is my first piece, I will tell you a little bit about our garden and myself. Our garden isn’t huge, 40′ x 27′ at the front and approx 80′ x 30′ at the back, with a very small garden at the side of the house. Both I and my husband Barry are very enthusiastic gardeners and we are always planning and growing plants for our summer displays.

Our garden

Barry does all the hard work and enjoys looking after our veggie garden and allotment. We live in Surrey and the soil is typical ‘bagshot’ sand and therefore needs lots of garden compost dug in each year. I have been gardening for over 30 years now and I have 3 incredible greenhouses! Barry built my first greenhouse and I inherited a second greenhouse from an Auntie. I was then lucky enough to win the other one in a competition.

Our garden

Greenhouse no.1 is my veggie greenhouse where I grow tomatoes, peppers, chillies, cucumbers and my favourite herbs which consists of different varieties of Basil.

Our garden

Greenhouse no.2 is a pot plant greenhouse in summer and a cuttings greenhouse in winter. Greenhouses have uses all year round!

Our garden

Greenhouse no.3 is for anything I can’t fit into the other two!! This year it will be full of peppers and chillies some of which I will be trialling for Thompson & Morgan (I am really looking forward to it) I really enjoy being a trial member.  It is such a joy to grow products and share the results with other gardeners.

Our garden

I really enjoy making our front garden as colourful as possible for the summer. I also enjoying growing plants from cuttings, seeds and plugs as I try to make our garden look a bit ‘cottagy’ rather than too formal. This year our garden will be full of cosmos, marguerites, petunias, begonias, vanilla marigolds, blue salvias and ageratum.

our garden

Our back garden has a small pond and lawn area too, we have a secret garden and a veggie garden which is edged with cordon fruit trees.

our garden

For the past few years we have opened our garden for the National Garden Scheme and last summer we were filmed for a small part in the Great British Garden Revival alongside Christine Walkden in the Ornamental Bedding episode – it was very exciting!

Thank you for reading my blog,

Best Wishes,

Pam

 

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